Slowly Slowly, Catchy Monkey

When I was growing up there was a saying I heard time and time again. First from my parents, then from my grandparents and finally my teachers, I would repeatedly hear the phrase, “slowly slowly catchy monkey” when I got frustrated that things weren’t progressing as fast as I would have liked. The phrase was supposed to tell me that by playing a long game, rather than looking for instant gratification – whether saving my pocket money for something I’d seen in a store, or making progress at one a sport or another. I was told repeatedly that with patience and putting in the requisite work I would succeed in whatever endeavour it was I was invested in.

In the era of the real-time internet this strategy can, often, be forgotten. People expect that because communication is instantaneous – whether communicating with customers via email, or journalists via Twitter or LinkedIn – that objectives will be achieved in similar timescales. In many – actually, in most – cases, this is not the case. This is particularly true when it comes to marketing and public relations. You launch a product – you expect to have customers lining up to buy it.

You tweet a link to a blog post and you expect there to be a flurry of activity on your website. You “engage” with an influencer on a social platform and you expect their followers/friends/fans to be instantly gain their trust. You position yourself as an expert and, within weeks, you’re expecting people to be waiting with baited breath. That’s how social media marketing works, right?

Wrong! Imagine if you applied the same principle to other areas of your life. You start a new job and expect to be appointed CEO within a couple of months because you demonstrate you can do your job well. You earn a good salary for your work, so expect to be able to command six figures within months because you build relationships with senior members of the executive team. You pass your driving test, so expect to be able to compete in IndyCart or Formula One… I’m not saying it never happens, but it’s unlikely.

Credibility, influence and trust take time. Persuading somebody that they should buy your product rather than a competitors doesn’t happen overnight unless you have a really disruptive product or service – and even then, the fact that it is disruptive often means the market takes time to adjust. But that’s not a bad thing. Instant successes often aren’t sustained – just think of all the “one-hit wonders” that litter the annuls of the music industry… all the artists that had a top 10 hit and were never heard of again.

As you build a marketing and public relations plan for the coming year the key is to be able to sustain the successes. Build measurement in to a plan to show that you’re making progress and identify key milestones that will be key to achieving your overall goals come the end of the year. A journalist that writes for one of the leading technology startup websites, TechCrunch, summed it up best at an event I attended before Christmas when he said, ‘Do something cool. Talk about it. Then do it again!”.

Marketing success – as with anything else – takes time, so when you’re building your marketing and PR plan for 2013 remember what my grandmother told me… “slowly slowly catchy monkey”.

*this post was originally written for SBCN Canada http://www.sbcncanada.org

THINK DIFFERENT[LY] | My marketing plan for #BlackBerry10

I’ve been pretty hard on BlackBerry in recent months.  I’ve criticized their marketing and suggested that it will result in the eventual demise of the company.  I’ve said the launch of  the company’s make-or-break new operating system, BlackBerry 10, was an unmitigated failure and poured scorn on their Super Bowl advert.  So, it’s only fair that now BlackBerry 10 has launched, I share what I would have done differently to try to turn around the ailing company.

Re-brand. While Research In Motion announced it was to become BlackBerry last week at the launch of BlackBerry10, it should have done it when current CEO Thorsten Heins took over at the helm of the company from founders Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie last January.  It would have given the company a full year in which to reposition and rebuild the brand.

Re-message.  BlackBerry has been, the company claims, been “redesigned, re-engineered and reinvented”.  I quite like the message, but the company should have re-launched its message in Q1 or, at latest, Q2 last year.  It would have sent a message to customers and prospects that the company was relevant and encouraged those that were considering Apple’s iPhone 5 or one of the many Android devices a reason to put off their purchase decision.

Focus.  The company needed to define who its target audience was – in detail.  BlackBerry still describes its target audience as ‘hyper-connected’ individuals.  This is everybody… and nobody.  It makes developing a product and marketing it incredibly difficult.  It also makes it difficult for people to identify with the brand – especially given that fewer people identify themselves as BlackBerry users than in the past.

Become the entrepreneurs friend.  Hyper-connected people, and with a real need for a phone that helps them manage their business lives.  They have a finely balanced work-life balance and need a smartphone that helps them to put business first, but also serve their personal lifestyle outside of the office.  There are also, my design or circumstance, more entrepreneurs than at any time in the smartphone era because of the global economic downturn.  The President of The United States of America is a BlackBerry user – and helping Americans and the US economy at a time of need would have been a great PR opportunity.

Find brand ambassadors.  One for each customer demographic would be good.  The company announced Alicia Keys as the company’s Global Creative Director at the BlackBerry10 launch, but it didn’t go far enough.  How about an Enterprise brand ambassador, a sports ambassador, somebody that entrepreneurs can relate to… I don’t know the specific names of the ambassadors, but I’m pretty sure that Alicia Keys won’t help the company sell to retain Enterprise business.

Establish ‘Entrepreneur Bars’.  OK, so the name is not right, but why not establish business centres that can be used, much as Apple has Genius bars, by business customers to get advice on technology, as well as finance, legal, patent, sales and operations experts. Make a friend of an entrepreneur by helping them to build a successful business and, I suspect, they’ll remain loyal.

Establish partnerships.  Incubators and accelerators would be a great opportunity for BlackBerry.  Grants, bursaries, competitions for developers to create apps for the new OS would have been a great way to get the next generation of entrepreneurs on side and talking positively about the new handsets/operating system.  

Free upgrades for existing customers.  If not free, then subsidized.  No matter how long remains on existing contracts I’d suggest all BlackBerry users were given the opportunity to upgrade to a new BlackBerry10 device.  It’d get handsets into the market in bulk and make a brand ambassador of every exiting customer.

Stop Thorsten Heins from doing interviews.  I don’t mean any disrespect, but he’s not able to connect with the company’s major target demographics.  BlackBerry would really shake things up – and set an example for the industry – if it found somebody in their 20s or 30s to do interviews, launches and consumer-focused [I include both B2B and B2C in this] PR.  Thorsten is perfect for investor and partner relations activities so I’d focus his energies on these activities.

One launch.  The launch was effectively one event, from New York City, streamed to viewing parties around the world.  Make it big – think Google I/O skydivers or Apple iPhone the first time around.  If this is the OS on which the fortunes of the business rests then it needed to be memorable – the BlackBerry10 launch wasn’t memorable.

This is just a start – there needs to be a tactical BlackBerry10 launch plan, but I believe the company missed significant opportunities to score easy victories in the run up to the January 30 launch.  Missed opportunities that, I believe, will cost it dear in the coming weeks and months.  Tell me I’m wrong.  I’d love to hear your ideas on what BlackBerry should have done to improve its chances of making 10 a success and saving itself from oblivion.

BlackBerry Is Dead

You’re a company on its knees. Your future depends on selling significant volumes of a new product in one particular territory. You have an opportunity to tell your target audience why they should buy your new product.

You spend millions buying air time. And then you develop this 30 second spot…

BlackBerry called it an ‘execution’. I’m calling it suicide. It’ll be studied by marketing students for generations to come. As a marketer I can’t even begin to understand why somebody at the company thought this was a good idea!

I’ve been saying that it would be the marketing that killed RIM [now rebranded BlackBerry] and it’s new BlackBerry10 operating system. If this doesn’t convince those that told me I was wrong, I don’t know what will. I didn’t think it could get any worse than the ponytail cutting that preceded the launch of BlackBerry10 last week. I was wrong.

BlackBerry’s Marketing Director, Frank Boulben, should be fired. Whoever developed the creative for the advert should never be allowed to practice again. Anybody who saw the advert before it ran and didn’t say anything deserves everything they get!

I’m calling it now. BlackBerry. Is. Dead. #RIPBlackBerry

You can read my previous posts about RIM/BlackBerry/BlackBerry10 here

Update

BlackBerry [$BBRY] stock rose more than 15% on the first day of trading under its new ticker symbol and is up 5% in pre-market activity at the time of writing this.  This does not change my fundamental view that BlackBerry will fail as a result of an inability to market its products and differentiate against its competition.

Was the #BlackBerry10 launch was a success or a failure?

Sadly, after a long wait, it was an unmitigated failure.  RIM… sorry, BlackBerry, needed something a little special as it launched the product that it believes will see it through the next decade – but what we got was more of the same.  While we won’t know for sure what impact the launch of #BlackBerry10 will have on sales – my prediction is that it won’t be positive – here are some specifics about why the launch was a car crash for RIM.

It started late.  The event was scheduled for a 10am ET start, but didn’t get going until 10.15.  The video stream started at 10, but it was a series of interviews with the product development team and a haircut for Kevin Michaluk – otherwise known as Crackberry Kevin.

It was preluded by somebody having their ponytail cut off!  I’ve done a few product launches in my time – and I’ve studied more than I can count – but it’s the first I’ve see where the main event involve somebody getting a hair cut!  I’m guessing it will also be the last one I see.

It was presented by Thorsten Heins.  It shouldn’t have been.  Given the company announced Alicia Keys as Global Creative Director why not make the announcement  before the main product announcements and have Ms. Keys do the launch?

It was held on the wrong date.  Given the company has invested in an expensive Superbowl advert why hold the launch four days before?  Especially when the US marketing effort doesn’t start until Sunday.  BlackBerry should have held the event on Monday February 4th.

It was two-speed.  Pedestrian and clunky presentation on stage, interspersed with high tempo video promos – there was no rhythm to the launch.

The products rose from the stage on a music stand.  What was that all about?  They’re pocket-sized… could Thorsten not have taken them out of his pocket?  What was the music stand all about?

The livestream was a tight one shot. Which meant those not at the event missed what was on the screen behind.

The demos were too long and tried to show too many things.  You also felt like you were eavesdropping on a private conversation between Thorsten and Vivek Bhardwaj.

The response in the room at the New York City launch was muted.  BlackBerry clearly underestimated the lack of enthusiasm they’d get from attendees.  They should have called Rent-A-Crowd in order to ensure a rapturous welcome for each announcement at the BlackBerry10 launch event.

No carrier support.  There were a few carrier contributions in the preamble, but none on stage to support the launch.  With US Carriers being critical to a BlackBerry revival, their absence was worrying.

No app developer support.  They may not have been asked, but if they weren’t… why not?!

No hint at the marketing effort.  RIM has invested in a commercial advert for this weekend’s Superbowl, but there was no hint of what we might expect.  This was the perfect opportunity to get people buzzing about the spot BlackBerry will run.  The marketing, according to reports, starts on Sunday – FOUR DAYS after the official #BlackBerry10 launch.

Alicia Keys.  The way they built it up, I expected to hear that BlackBerry had poached Jonny Ive… or persuaded somebody like Norman Foster or James Dyson to come on board to help their product design efforts as Global Creative Director.  Aside from the why… why announce it at the end?  Why not have Ms. Keys do the presentation – she knows how to command an audience and there would have been hundreds of press images of her with the new devices.  Sure, there were some taken after the event, but she didn’t touch one of the handsets during the launch.  A huge mistake.

Keep Moving.  Less than 30 seconds was spent on this.  It sounded interesting and, presumably, will be a large part of the company’s marketing efforts.  Why not at least show a preview or name some of the athletes involved.  Could this be the Superbowl spot?  [I had to Google ‘BB10 Keep Moving’ to find the video]

It just kind of fizzled out.  There was no summary that told viewers they’d reached the end of the launch.  The screen on the webcast just faded to black [or blue].

Based on the #BlackBerry10 launch, if the company avoids oblivion it’ll be more luck than judgement.

 

What BlackBerry needs to demonstrate today

Today is #BlackBerry10 day! We’ve waited a long time for it.  I’ve been pretty pessimistic about RIM’s chances of turning things around over the last year. BlackBerry claims its new operating system is ‘Re-designed. Re-engineered. Re-invented’ so today I wanted to write about what I’m hoping to see at the launch today.

Without them there’s no chance RIM will be Re-serected.

Passion.  It’s the foundation of every great brand and I’m hoping that today RIM starts re-building an emotional relationship with both existing and potential new customers. A straight product introduction won’t cut it for RIM this time.

Some ‘Holy Sh!t’ moments. Steve Jobs was famous for them, and RIM needs to deliver a few at today’s launch presentation. RIM needs to disrupt the market and without any moments it’ll be fighting an uphill battle to make BlackBerry 10 a success.

Renewed Focus.  I wrote last year that one of the biggest missteps by RIM was that it lost sight of its customers. Having built an established Enterprise following RIM chased the iPhone crowd – and has been on a losing trajectory ever since.  BlackBerry10 will have 6 products in 2013 – and each one needs to be targeted at a specific user demographic group.

A killer strategic and tactical marketing plan.  RIM’s marketing has been woeful for longer than I care to remember – and that needs to have been fixed. The company has invested in its first Superbowl commercial to support the launch of BlackBerry10. It’s got to be good. The company also needs 7 tactical plans – one for rebuilding the corporate brand profile and one each for its six new BlackBerry10 products launching in 2013.

If RIM still hasn’t fixed its marketing problems it’ll be the marketing, not the technology, that kills BlackBerry10!

Carriers. In order to make BlackBerry10 a success RIM needs to have major carriers willing to take its new handsets from day 1 – a strong turnout of support at the launch would certainly settle investors nerves. Without them, BlackBerry10 could be dead on arrival. If reports I’m reading about a story in today’s Wall Street Journal later today are to be believed… RIM could be in trouble.

Something ‘cool’. And I’m talking subzero cool. While the reviews and leaks of the new BlackBerry Z10 handset and OS look good, if RIM wants to persuade former BlackBerry customers to return to the fold – let alone persuade dyed-in-the-wool iPhone and Android users BlackBerry10 will need something cool. And, I’m talking Samuel L Jackson cool!

RIM is streaming the long-awaited launch via its newsroom page which starts at 10am ET/7PT/3pm UK

Does #newamerican reinforce old stereotypes of Americans?

On January 17th American Airlines launched it’s new livery and brand identity.  #newamerican replaces the classic theme the company has used for the last 42 years and also includes a revision of the classic American eagle that has adorned its ‘silver birds’ since 1967.  Massimo Vignelli, the designer of the outgoing livery has described the new logo and livery as ‘having no permanence’ and the reaction from social media commentators has been mixed.

Personally, I think it’s a mess.  The tail fin design is unrefined, the font used for the American letter is plain – the company has moved away from the Helvetica Neue Bold it’s used for the last four decades] and the fact it wraps over the window line just doesn’t look good.  I thought it was a mess from day one, but wanted to take some time to live with it rather than rushing to judgement.  Having done that I still think it’s a little gawdy and I can’t  help feeling it reinforces many of the negative stereotypes that  many people from around the world associated with America – a little too loud, a little unrefined, and flag-waving at every opportunity – often a bit inappropriately.   The new logo resembles a pair of 80s 3D TV glasses more than an evolution of the American eagle.  What do you think?

I’ve also been having an interesting conversation with a few friends [@JennaLee, @JoeyJOH, @WirelessWench, @Amoyal and @MsMobileConverg on Twitter and we’re planning a Google Hangout to talk about the challenge faced by companies looking to re-brand – especially when their existing colours are such an intricate part of the fabric of the organization.

Rob Ford Needs A Better Media Strategy

Update 6 [March 3 2014]

Rob Ford says his interview with Jimmy Kimmel was scripted.  You couldn’t make it up… but, he could!

Update 5 [October 31]

It’s over for Rob Ford whatever he does from here, but it could have been very different had he handled the situation differently.  Over the last few months, since allegations about a video reported to show him smoking what appeared to be crack cocaine, his relationship with the media has been confrontational.  This morning there are videos of the Mayor shouting at reporters and appearing to push at least one photographer in attempt to get him to move off of his driveway.

Had Ford dealt with the questions and allegations differently, as I suggested in this post when the story broke, he could have stayed ahead of the story, changed the discussion and looked at ways in which he could survive the growing crisis.

Here are five key elements of surviving any media crisis:

  1. Have a clear strategic and tactical plan developed.  You may never need it, but if you do it’ll repay the investment in time and money.
  2. Get ahead of the story.  Address the allegations and questions as quickly as you can.  Use the pre-prepared crisis comms plan developed for use in the event that you need it.
  3. Tell the truth.  The facts will, likely, out and it’s better if the media hears it from you rather than via somebody else.
  4. If the allegations are true accept them and commit to taking the necessary action to ensure that they are dealt with or that action is taken to address an organizational failing.
  5. Stay calm,  don’t raise your voice, don’t confront journalists and remain polite and courteous.

For advice on effective crisis management planning call me on 647.773.2677 or email lyndon@thinkdifferently.ca

Update 4 [Sunday May 26]

The statement made by Rob Ford on Friday afternoon was a complete waste of time – leaving the key questions now being asked by typically pro-Ford media unanswered.  This afternoon, reading the reports of some of the Ford Brothers’ comments on their Sunday afternoon radio show highlights the point of my original post [below] – you can’t call the press names and expect them to like you – and then whine when they ask difficult questions.  The press isn’t bad because they ask challenging questions, and good if they support you and give you a platform – that’s not how it works!

My advice to the Ford’s? Read ‘If -‘ by Rudyard Kipling.  A couple of lines in particular, stand out:

‘ If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster; And treat those two impostors just the same… ‘ 

‘…you’ll be a man, my son.’

The Ford Brothers need a media strategy that enables them to deal with both triumph and difficult questions.  It’ll make them look like men, not like spoilt whining school yard bullies that are being asked to account for their behaviour.

Update 3 [Friday May 24 2013]

Rob Ford needs to get in front of the media – and do it quickly.  Yes, I know this isn’t new – but the opportunity in front of him is – and, if he’s sensible, he’ll seize it.  It could be the difference between a potentially career-ending disaster and giving him a chance to move forward.

The typical thinking when situations like the one that has engulfed Toronto’s Mayor over the last seven days is to get your side of the story on record – and quickly.  Having missed many opportunities to take control of the situation by addressing the media in a planned and dignified  manner – and dealing with the allegations made against him with the seriousness they deserve, a perfect storm has emerged over the last 18 hours.

Gawker and the Toronto Star both say the owners of the alleged video have gone to ground casting doubt over whether the video, they claim supports their allegations, will ever see the light of day.  Ford needs to get his side of the story out – whatever that is – with a short, clear, meticulously worded statement – and deliver it with passion, but dignity.  He needs to give the sort of speech a mayor might be expected to give faced with these kinds of allegations.

It’s not important what he says.  Whether the allegations are true of false is irrelevant. What matters right now for Rob Ford is that there is a window where he can regain control of a situation that has been spiralling out of his control for more than a week.  It’s a rare opportunity this far down the line and he needs to recognize it and seize it with both hands.  The storm may have passed come Monday…

Rob Ford’s future may very well depend on the choices he makes in the next few hours.

Update 2

Rob Ford’s continued refusal to formally address the allegations made by Gawker and The Toronto Star is as fascinating as it is unbelievable.  Arriving with your back to the press, refusing to answer questions… this is not the behaviour you’d expect of an elected official and his continued silence allows his accusers the opportunity to speculate.  It also does him as much, if not more, damage than addressing the accusations head on – after all, if they are, as Ford maintains, ridiculous then he deserves to have his reputation protected – and both the Toronto Star and Gawker held to account.

Public Relations is about perception and hiding [because that’s what he’s doing when he turns his back on the press and refuses to answer questions directly] will only harm Ford and allow his accusers to continue to make their claims.  If the rumours are unfounded, as Ford claims, there’s a very easy way to deal with them and protect his reputation. I explain how here dealing with defamatory comments online.

Update 

Many of the problems that I talk about in my original post, written in January, are compounding the problems Mayor Ford faces in the light of the accusations made by Gawker and the Toronto Star.  Ford’s current strategy has been to dismiss the accusations as ‘ridiculous’ during a brief exchange with journalists on Friday morning – he has not answered specific questions directly.

If the accusations are ridiculous, as Ford claims, then his strategy – allowing two key questions [is the person in the video him and, if it is, is he doing what his accusers say he is] to go unaddressed – the speculation could do him as much damage as the allegations being true.  He needs to call a press conference immediately, answer the allegations directly and take back some control of the situation while there is still a chance to save his career.

Original post:

I’ve been watching how mayor Ford handles the media since he took office in October 2010 and can’t help thinking he’d have an easier time of it had his media strategy have been better.

Since Ford took office he’s stumbled from one run-in with the press to another.  He’s bemoaned his continued pursuit by the media, demonstrated a lack of humour when ‘doorstepped’ by a costumed Mary Walsh, then there was the fiasco over his subsequent 911 call, and an unflinching view that he is the victim of a smear campaign… then there’s the negative press over alleged commandeering of TTC vehicles for his football team, questions over his integrity, use of election funds, failing to account for office spending… I could go on, but Torontoist has a great graphic detailing the various scrapes the mayor has gotten in to over the last two years.

My point is that Rob Ford’s approach to dealing with the media – oft referred to as a ‘scorched earth’ policy – damages him more than it does help him.  As a public figure, or the high profile CEO of a company, dealing with the media is part and parcel of the job.  That means being approachable, maintaining a sense of perspective and answering the difficult questions rather than accusing them of “burning” bridges and being “pathological liars“, “sucky little kids” or “a bunch of pricks” who “whine and cry and moan and … lie through their teeth” when they pursue you – either directly, or via somebody seen as speaking on your behalf.

Journalists also don’t like being banned from football fields, when the team is such a large part of your life, or threatening to bar them from a traditional New Year’s event.  It just makes them more determined to dig the dirt.  The sooner Mayor Ford learns that the easier his political and personal life will be.  Embracing the media would not only help take the spotlight off of him it would also allow him to focus his energies on serving the people that elected him, rather than fighting ongoing battles with both his accusers and the press.  After all, right now his attitude and behaviour towards the media is a story in itself right now.  Remove that and there’s less for the press to write about.

Having just listened to Mayor Ford’s post-decision press conference on the radio it seems, at least for today, that he’s adopting a different strategy. He’s more humble, conciliatory, more human. How long it will last though is anybody’s guess!

What can entrepreneurs learn from Rob Ford’s experiences?  Don’t duck questions – no matter how difficult they might be – it makes you look like you have something to hide irrespective of the truth.  Develop considered responses based on a pre-prepared strategic crisis communications plan that is an integral part of your PR toolkit, take control of the situation and control the story, and quickly move the conversation on to more comfortable ground.

Read more about Rob Ford’s PR and Media ‘Strategies’

10 things every entrepreneur needs to know about crisis communications

Silence was Armstrong’s best PR strategy

If Lance Armstrong was going to come clean then the time was long ago. Not, as he chose, in a two-part special with Oprah. Much has been made of Armstrong’s long-overdue confession with America’s most watched talk show host. It’s been described as a bid to secure his long-term future [Armstrong wasn’t paid for the interview, but it was suggested that by confessing, he could open the way to a reduction in his lifetime ban] or as some kind of redemption and rehabilitation strategy. If it was, he failed.

If Armstrong wanted a path back to competition then his best strategy was to remain silent. I’m not condoning it, or suggesting that he shouldn’t have come clean, but the timing and manner of his admission were all wrong. The right thing to do would have been to own up to his cheating when the rumours first started to surface. There was even a window when the USADA investigation gathered pace – he could have avoided the high-profile publicity, the 1000 page report and the mass media attention.

But, given that he repeatedly denied he’d doped, and went as far as to sue people who were actually telling the truth, Armstrong’s best strategy was to stick to the approach he adopted when the USADA labelled him a serial cheat – to stop denying he had cheated and say nothing. Given that most people already believed he was guilty, most people would have forgotten about him in a matter of months.

Sure, there would always have been a cloud hanging over him, but he could always have truthfully repeated the mantra, ‘I never failed a test’. This was, after all, the fact, if not the truth. Had Armstrong continued to work behind the scenes for his Livestrong foundation he could, in time, have reestablished himself in the role of cancer survivor and charity fundraiser and reentered the public arena. Silence would have enabled him to lobby the sporting powers for a reduction of his life ban and re-introduction to competitive triathlon and road racing in 2020 as an age-grouper. In 7 years, likely only the hardcore cyclists will remember him, and nobody would criticize his establishment of a foundation that has raised hundreds of millions to inspire and support people affected by cancer.

Armstrong’s very public admission, however, will likely cost him his reported $100m fortune, as well as his chances of ever competing again, and label him not only a cheat, but a serial liar. This is now what his legacy will be.

Will Lance Armstrong’s ‘Comeback Plan’ Work?

I wanted to give my thoughts on a report in today’s USA Today that suggests Lance Armstrong’s expected confession that he did take performance-enhancing drugs during his professional cycling career is part of a long-term plan to rehabilitate his damaged image. If he does admit doping [to date Lance Armstrong has always denied it] I believe this plan will not only fail, but will backfire badly. Why? Because of his vehement denials, the fact that any admission would come after he’d been stripped of his seven Tour De France titles, because he’s had numerous opportunities to come clean and because not only will he be seen to have cheated, but now also to have repeatedly lied about it.

I’ve been a supporter of Armstrong for many years. I don’t understand why a man who is acknowledged to be a super-human athlete, [his aerobic performance has long been documented to be off-the-charts even before his cycling career] and who, by the admission of one of his accusers, could beat [clean] his doping competitors, would take drugs. I also don’t understand why, in an environment where many of his peers have admitted taking performance-enhancing drugs, it has taken him so long to come clean.

I wrote earlier in the year about Armstrong’s communications strategy. I believed his approach – to force the USADA to show their evidence – was a wise strategy if he was innocent of the accusations.  If he was guilty however, and there was evidence that would condemn him, it was madness. If, as is reported, Armstrong finally admits he cheated then his strategy then was awful. It’s now also mis-judged. If he believes that an admission will lead to some kind of redemption, it won’t.

NAIAS – Ford Digital Summit

I’m attending the North American International Auto Show as a guest of Ford Motor Company. Over the next few days I’ll be writing about the Digital Summit they are holding over the next two days as well as thoughts about how the company [and other auto makers] are using social communications channels to attract and retain loyal owners.

Disclosure: I am a guest of Ford Motor Company, which has paid for my airfare, hotel and hospitality during my stay in Detroit for the NAIAS and digital summit. They have, however, not asked that I write about it, nor have they asked that I write favourably about them in return for their hospitality and have not asked for editorial pre-sight of what I write.

En route to Detroit for the North American International Auto Show as a guest of Ford Motor Company
En route to Detroit for the North American International Auto Show as a guest of Ford Motor Company

The central console in the 2014 Ford Fusion is great for geeks like me. It tells you about what mode the car is in [electric or traditional gas], as well as things normal things you’d expect from a modern vehicle control centre. When I first saw a picture of the car I was drawn to the Aston Martin-esque front grille. The driver suggested it might also inspire memories of Jaguars of old – I’ll have to have another look before I can tell you whether I agree.

A panel in the 2014 Ford Fusion Hybrid dashboard is heaven for geeks like me!
A panel in the 2014 Ford Fusion Hybrid dashboard is heaven for geeks like me!

The strangest thing about hybrid/EVs for me, is the lack of motor noise. The best thing? Gas consumption – our host claimed that having driven back and forth between Detroit airport and our hotel [the Westin] he topped-off the tank – 5 and a half liters [about half a tank]. If reflective of average use then they are impressive numbers.

Update: Monday January 14th [6.30 am]

Last night I visited The Henry Ford Museum for the first sessions of Ford’s Digital Summit. If you’ve not visited the museum I’d recommend it. While it boasts the name of the company’s founder it’s not all Ford vehicles – containing a history of technology since the industrial revolution. The museum has three presidential limousines – Eisenhower, Reagan and the car in which John F. Kennedy was shot in while visiting Dallas on 22 November 1963 and modified by the United States’ 36th President… Lyndon Baines Johnson.

Dearborn-20130113-02458

There’s also the bus that Rosa Parks famously stood up for her civil rights in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955. You can sit in the seat Rosa refused to give up.

IMG-20130113-02452

The evening also contained a session discussing design and innovation that looked at how a company like Ford stays ahead of the design curve. The company has a design team of more than 100 from around 27 countries and has scenarios for 1, 3, 5, 10 and 15 years ahead, which its teams develop vehicle designs for. I also had the pleasure of sitting next to one of the company’s senior communications team [from their digital agency roster] and discuss everything from the future of corporate communications, the online/offline communications mix and the importance of targeting.

Update January 14th – 11pm

I’ll write more about some of the things I’ve seen and talked about today soon, but I wanted to share an interview I did with Scott Monty, Global Head of Social Media at Ford Motor Company. I spoke with him earlier this evening to find out what social media means to the company. I started by asking him how Ford got in to using social media.

Scott Monty Ford [edited]

Ford just announced a new concept truck – The Atlas.

Photo on 2013-01-15 at 8.29 AM

Ford Atlas